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How do you write a personal statement for a graduate school application?

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Quick Answer

Write a personal statement for a graduate school application by verifying what admission officers are seeking, emphasizing individuality regarding personal questions, focusing anecdotes on college-related experiences and networking within relevant fields well before applying. Overall, use the statement to convey that you are motivated, prepared and passionate about your ongoing education.

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Full Answer

If the graduate program provides a prompt for writing, review it thoroughly to plan for a statement aligning with expectations. If the program provides no specifics, try to focus on the most relevant aspects of your own experience, and write a short, passionate response regarding those experiences. Admission officers generally prefer shorter essays to longer ones.

While some personal statement prompts may concern your specific discipline, most personal statements are intended to highlight you as an individual to the admissions officer. As such, statements about the larger world should be connected to you and your motivations to apply for this position. One example is connecting the high child death rate in Africa to the desire to obtain the requisite education to provide nutrition and health care to needy children. Because of the need to connect the personal and the factual, keep any anecdotes in this section focused on specific college-level experiences rather than more abstract childhood experiences.

Finally, use the personal statement to illustrate existing relationships with mentors in your field and to specifically mention professors from whom you'd like to learn. This illustrates your ability to contribute to collaborative learning and professional research as well as your informed passion about the specific school.

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